FeaturedNationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 37

Climate challenge: beyond the rain emergency

During the last few months Pakistan has been lashed by torrential rains which have taken a heavy toll in terms of lives lost and damage to property and standing crops. According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department, heavy downpours and thunderstorms have battered different parts of the country during the ongoing monsoon spell.

In a press release the PMD said that 73 percent more rains were recorded from July 1 to July 26 which was an extraordinary phenomenon. It said that 89.1 mm rains were recorded in the country as compared to average rains measuring 51.5 mm. Gilgit-Baltistan recorded 229 percent more rains than average. Sindh recorded 176 percent, Balochistan 114 percent and Punjab witnessed 40 percent more rain than average rains recorded in these areas during previous years.

The National Disaster Management Authority last week released a detailed report on the devastating loss of life and property caused by the recent monsoon rains across Pakistan. According to the report, since June 25, more than 200 people have lost their lives in various accidents directly related to the heavy rains, while over 300 individuals have been injured across the country. The monsoon season in Pakistan has always posed challenges in terms of flooding, landslides, and other natural calamities. However, this year’s rains have proved to be particularly severe, leading to an unusually high number of casualties and property damage.

Due to the rising temperatures, extreme climatic phenomena, including floods, droughts, cyclones, torrential rainstorms and extremely high temperatures, are occurring more frequently and with greater intensity than before. Since 2000, there has been a significant rise in the variability of the monsoon. As a result, Pakistan has experienced floods of varied severity every year since 2010.

As one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, Pakistan is experiencing the harsh consequences of global climate change. The country’s geographical diversity, combined with its heavy reliance on agriculture and limited resources, makes it particularly susceptible to the impacts of rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events.

One of the most significant challenges Pakistan faces due to climate change is the dwindling freshwater resources. The melting of glaciers in the Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges, which feed the Indus River system, has accelerated in recent years. Glacial retreat not only threatens water availability for agriculture and drinking purposes but also raises the risk of glacial lake outburst floods, posing hazards to downstream communities.

Pakistan relies heavily on the annual monsoon rains to replenish its water reservoirs and sustain agricultural productivity. However, climate change is altering the monsoon patterns, resulting in erratic rainfall distribution. Prolonged dry spells followed by intense downpours lead to soil erosion, reduced crop yields, and an increased likelihood of flash floods, impacting millions of livelihoods. Increased instances of droughts and floods are resulting in the loss of crops, livestock, and agricultural infrastructure, exacerbating food insecurity and poverty in the region.

Pakistan’s diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are also at risk. Shifting temperatures and precipitation patterns disrupt ecosystems, causing habitat loss and threatening many species with extinction. For instance, the melting of glaciers affects the habitats of snow leopards and other mountain species, while deforestation compounds the issue by reducing forested areas that support diverse wildlife.

In the larger context, climate change poses a serious threat to Pakistan’s environmental, social, and economic stability. Urgent and coordinated efforts are required to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and reduce global warming. Additionally, investments in climate-resilient infrastructure, water management systems, and sustainable agriculture practices are vital for adaptation.

According to experts, while dealing with the current rain emergency, Pakistan must do long-term planning to protect its people, environment, and economy. There is an urgent need for developing key strategies to reverse the effects of climate change. A big problem is deforestation which has greatly contributed to the degradation of Pakistan’s natural ecosystems and biodiversity loss. To counteract these effects, the country must prioritize reforestation and afforestation efforts. Planting more trees, especially in vulnerable areas like the northern regions and along riverbanks, can help mitigate soil erosion, conserve water resources, and sequester carbon dioxide.

Given its heavy reliance on agriculture, saving Pakistan’s water resources is crucial for food security and livelihoods. Sustainable water resource management practices, such as rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation, and efficient water distribution systems, can help conserve water and enhance agricultural productivity. Moreover, reducing water wastage and ensuring equitable access to water resources are essential steps to cope with the increasing water scarcity caused by climate change.

At the same time, we need to actively promote climate-resilient agriculture practices for the benefit of rural communities. Implementing drought-resistant crops, improving soil health, and adopting climate-smart farming techniques can help farmers adapt to changing climate patterns. Additionally, promoting agroforestry and organic farming can contribute to sustainable land use and biodiversity conservation.

Among other things, Pakistan must prioritize climate education and awareness campaigns to build a climate resilient society. Educating the public, policymakers, and businesses about the challenges posed by climate change can foster a culture of sustainability and encourage widespread participation in climate action initiatives.